This Week in History: October 10-16
25 years ago: Clinton shills for American companies in Latin America
On October 12, 1997, US President Bill Clinton embarked on a tour of Latin America, the first president in 25 years to make such a trip. The purpose of the junket was to promote the interests of big American business and to reassert the hegemony of American capitalism in a region that it had long considered its “backyard”, but where it faced increasing competition. more aggressive than its European rivals.
The trip included stops in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. In Brazil, the US president made a brief visit to a school for students from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, to organize a crude promotion for Xerox Corporation, which had contributed money to the institution. Then he went to Argentina, where he declared the right-wing and corruption-ridden Peronist Party regime of Carlos Saul Menem a strategic ally of the United States. The move was made at least in part to offset Argentina’s concerns over the United States’ recent sale of F-16 fighter jets to neighboring Chile. Following violent clashes between riot police and protesters in Buenos Aires, the Clintons flew to Patagonia in southern Argentina to spend two days in what had become a favorite hideaway of the world’s super-rich.
For the previous four decades, American policy toward Latin America was driven by anti-communism and opposition to any social reform that threatened American corporate interests. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Washington installed and supported a series of military dictatorships to achieve these goals, claiming that only such bloody methods could combat Soviet-backed subversion.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Latin American policy of the United States had drifted. Washington focused its efforts on crafting its NAFTA trade pact with Mexico and Canada, an arrangement that the ruling classes in much of the rest of the hemisphere viewed as damaging.
During the tour, Clinton promoted the expansion of NAFTA into a Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would encompass “Tierra del Fuego to Alaska.” Clinton’s welcome to Brazil was less than warm, expressing the increasingly independent aspirations of Brazil’s national bourgeoisie. Brazil has signaled its indifference to Clinton’s attempt to pass a “fast track” provision for signing new trade deals on the continent. Clinton was reminded that Latin America had already embarked on its own free trade zone, Mercosur, and was in no rush to subordinate itself to American interests.
The Mercosur pact, which included Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, with the participation of Chile and Bolivia, had already negotiated a free trade agreement with the European Union.
50 years ago: Chilean trade strike against Allende
On October 12, 1972, a state of emergency was declared in Chile in response to a strike in the capital by right-wing business owners opposed to the government of Salvador Allende. Capitalists in several industries, including trucking, retail, construction, and copper mining, had locked out workers to block Allende’s nationalization plans for several major industries.
The Braden Kennecott Corporation has threatened to use “all necessary means” to “enforce its rights to copper from the recently nationalized El Teniente mine.” It suspended copper shipments to France, a major trading partner of Chile.
In a speech announcing an emergency order against right-wing protesters who attacked truckers and damaged storefronts, Allende warned the country was on the brink of civil war. But he refused to mobilize the working class, specifically warning against counter-strikes and factory occupations. Allende instead appealed to the military and to Chilean nationalism. Allende said he wanted to prevent a “confrontation between Chileans. I ask you, in all conscience, to think of the homeland, of Chile.
Allende feared above all the independent action of the working class, which could lead to revolution. He also felt that working class action would antagonize the military, which was heavily influenced by right-wing elements and US intelligence agencies. Up to this point in his presidency, the military had failed to act against Allende and carried out his orders, but the truce remained uneasy. Despite Allende’s efforts to suppress the working class movement, including using the military against a railroad strike and protests by poor peasants, the Chilean bourgeoisie and US imperialism demanded tougher actions.
The lockouts served as a prelude to Augusto Pinochet’s US-backed coup that would occur in Chile eleven months later.
75 years ago: the US Air Force makes the world’s first hypersonic flight
On October 14, 1947, the United States Air Force performed the fastest flight up to that point in human history, with an experimental aircraft reaching supersonic speeds (faster than the speed of sound). The technological feat was achieved under a veil of secrecy and was not even made public for eight months, amid a feverish arms buildup associated with the Cold War.
The record flight took place just two months after the formal establishment of the US Air Force, which was previously a section of the military. The development of a single air department stemmed from the National Security Act, which provided for vast growth of the military and intelligence agencies.
The Oct. 14 flight was part of a series of tests conducted by the Air Force in remote areas of California around Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert. It was piloted by 24-year-old Chuck Yeager, who was selected after more experienced pilots demanded additional compensation for the risks involved.
Yeager’s Bell X1 aircraft had a number of new design features. These included a straight, thin wing, a tail aimed at maximizing speed, a bullet-shaped fuselage, and substantial power. The goal was to ensure the greatest movement, without the pilot losing control or the craft burning out. The Bell X1 was partially modeled after the Miles 52, a British aircraft designed in the later stages of World War II with the aim of traveling at 1,000 miles per hour.
The emphasis on developing a high-tech air force came after air combat played a significant role in World War II, well beyond its limited value in World War I.
Moreover, in 1947, the Democratic Party administration of President Harry Truman was rapidly escalating a confrontation with the Soviet Union, aimed at asserting the hegemony of US imperialism throughout Europe and internationally. This involved a frenetic military build-up, including extensive testing of atomic bombs and other high-powered bombs in the Pacific, and a race to develop new military technologies.
100 years ago: Communists call for demonstration against far-right nationalists in Berlin
On October 15, 1922, thousands of workers called up by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) protested in Berlin against a meeting of ultra-nationalist organizations at the Circus Busch on Under-den-Linden. Police officials had said far-right organizations had the right to assemble and sent large numbers of officers, including mounted and bicycle units, to protect them.
When the workers began stoning the Nationalist students as they arrived – many of whom were wearing paramilitary uniforms – the police intervened and fired on the workers. Two communist workers were killed, and in the ensuing melee two policemen also died. At least 25 civilians were injured in what was the worst street fighting since the failed Kapp Putsch by right-wing militias and army elements in March 1920.
The aim of the nationalist meeting, organized by the League for Freedom and Order, was to form new paramilitary organizations – with the aim of attacking communist and socialist workers – which had been banned since the Kapp putsch. In October 1922, Germany was still reeling from the June assassination of Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, by members of a secret far-right and anti-Semitic organization. Rathenau was not only hated by the right for being Jewish, but for arranging the Treaty of Rapallo in April with the Soviet Republic.
The KPD at that time was a revolutionary and workers’ party with over 250,000 members, according to an estimate, in October 1922. As one historian notes, “at that time the KPD was a party of workers and especially young workers … majority were men of the generation of the end and the immediate post-war period, that is to say that of the Russian Revolution  and the November revolution .”
Communist influence in the working class had grown since March 1921, when the KPD had temporarily lost much of its authority among the workers after carrying out a series of premature actions of a semi-insurrectionary character. Under the leadership of the Communist International, still under the political leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, it had reoriented its activity to win over the masses and seek closer collaboration with the workers of the Social Democratic Party, which remained the largest party. worker from Germany. .
Germany was entering a period of hyperinflation and social unrest which, together with sudden changes in the international situation, was to bring about a revolutionary situation in less than a year.